Alison Carter, owner of Public Hanger, opens a storefront at 77 S. 18th street in Columbus on February 12. Credit: Courtesy of Alison Carter
Hashtags driving Black-owned business support and sales via social media enabled local shops to thrive during the pandemic.
Katya Philmore and Alison Carter are the owners of two small vintage clothing boutiques owned by Columbus. Over the past year, they say Black-owned businesses have seen increased interest and continued support from Columbus residents in online and in-person shopping despite the ongoing pandemic.
Philmore is the owner and curator of Splendor Revival, a lifestyle brand that specializes in vintage and hand-crafted clothing, loungewear, statement pieces, gifts and accessories.
“The thing that really drives my business is simply encouraging women to feel loved and beautiful with the things they bring home or wear on their bodies,” says Philmore. “It’s all about encouraging self-love, relaxation and rest, and a kind of everyday luxury.”
Splendor Revival first opened in a studio on West Rich Street five years ago, but its original halls have been closed since the pandemic began. Instead, Philmore says he operates from his website, Instagram account and space at Little Light Collective, an April Rhodes-owned vintage cooperative that opened in September 2020 in Clintonville, Ohio.
“I’m seeing a large influx of new followers and supporters from people who want to support Black-owned businesses,” said Philmore. “It’s almost a bit of a stretch in the summer because there’s a lot to process emotionally with everything that happens.”
Public Hanger, owned by stylist Alison Carter, is an 80s and 90s themed vintage clothing boutique that is part of a cooperative owned by Black. Carter said he recently opened a storefront at 77 S. 18th St. on February 12, but started an online business in 2012 after his love and abundance of vintage clothing spawned the idea of sharing and styling them for others.
“I really appreciate vintage. “I love items that have been used but still have a story to tell,” said Carter. “I have so much stuff and it’s going to be wasted, so it’s just diverting into selling.”
Philmore says the pandemic has seen him change gears in some interesting ways and explore things he didn’t previously have. She launched a subscription box and mailing service, and she’s become more active on social media.
“I’ve made a lot more sales on Instagram, and it has definitely seen an influx of people,” said Philmore. “As long as I make consistent updates, I definitely see a big increase in followers.”
Carter said he also saw increased interest in Black-owned businesses last summer. She could create a pop-up shop that was socially distanced when the “outdoor market” opened, but she ended up shifting much of her sales to social media like Philmore.
“People still want to shop and don’t mind shopping online, especially on Instagram,” says Carter. “Don’t even post on my web site I’ll do a story sale.”
Before the pandemic closed businesses and caused limited direct spending, Carter and Philmore say they were deeply involved in the community with their businesses. Philmore says he conducts workshops and events in the studio, and gets most of his business in pop-ups, street fairs and festivals.
The transition to social media sales is not easy for the owner; Carter says there’s a lot of planning and preparation going into each story sale, and Philmore says he’s seen increasing delivery delays for online orders.
“There are a lot of platforms to cover,” Carter said. “You can’t just post on one thing because you can lose the entire market.”
Despite the challenges, Philmore and Carter both say they feel the community has been fairly consistent in gathering around Black’s small business from the last year to the present and only hopes it continues.
“We didn’t see a lot of Black’s boutiques,” Carter said. “I thought it would be interesting to see diversity appreciated and accepted now. I hope this isn’t a trend; I hope it stays consistent. “